Friday, 4 January 2013
With its rather polished air, it comes as something of a surprise that this is a film from the realism favouring Ken Loach, then you see the politics and you realise it isn't very surprising at all.
I do like this, though naturally it's a divisive subject; a film about Northern Ireland that instead of focusing on the atrocities performed by the IRA, looks to the actions of the British establishment and the RUC - the infamous 'Shoot to Kill' policy that was investigated in real life by John Stalker in the 80s. A fictional version of Stalker appears in this film played by Brian Cox, opposite Frances McDormand as an American civil rights lawyer conducting research into The Troubles.
It's still a deeply contentious subject, the recent inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane and the complicit nature the British security services had proves it so, but Loach does himself no favours in presenting a largely one sided debate that boils down to Irish terrorism - good, British 'terrorism' - bad. Sure, the allegations of the IRA taking innocent lives are made several times in the film, but on each occasion the spokesmen are allowed the freedom fighter excuse, citing that even George Washington was once branded a terrorist. The innocent victims of Enniskillen, Birmigham, Warrington, Manchester and many other cities are swept under the carpet. It's simply not an argument Loach wants to get involved in.
However he does throw quite a few interesting theories into the pot including trying to draw a comparison between Britain in Ireland and Chile, and a network of right wing establishment ensuring Thatcher's rise to power because she was willing to be hard line, unlike Heath or Wilson (even the ludicrous notion of Peter Wright and James Jesus Angleton that Wilson was a Soviet puppet is mentioned as is the more real fear that Mountbatten and his cronies considered a coup against Wilson during the austere 70s) These are theories that I imagine would cause the less politically aware and many outside of the UK a headache.
Hidden Agenda is a very interesting film, nicely shot with a bleakly beautiful ambience that forces the viewer to consider one injustice over another. Something that I - and I consider myself largely left wing - struggled with at times. If you can separate your own feelings, it's an enjoyable thriller in as much as one can 'enjoy' a dramatisation of such a tragic part of our history.
It could do without some of Stuart Copeland's score though, I mean it's fine enough but much of it is so heavily redolent of his work on The Equalizer that it feels in poor taste with such a serious depiction of the horrors committed by the security services.